The Christian Temple and the Jewish Temple

The Christian Temple and the Jewish Temple
Illustration of the Temple Solomon Built

One of the great misunderstandings of atheists and believers alike is the true meaning of the temple. The Christian temple is radically different from all other temples, including the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish Temple’s history goes back to the time of King David, who complained that he lived in a house made of cedar while the ark of God was in curtains. God told David in 2 Samuel 7:3 to do what was in his heart. The enthusiasm for building a physical temple seems to come from David, but he did not complete the job.

There are many problems with temples. They are costly to build and maintain, they can be destroyed, and they can become political tools of evil people. However, the main problem is that temples limit God. If God dwells in His house, then you go to His house to be with God. When you leave His house, you leave God. That also is likely to mean you leave your morals behind. Did you ever wonder what was in David’s mind when he got involved with Bathsheba? Where was God in his thinking? Answer – in the Temple with his morals. How often do we see people who claim to be religious have the same moral weaknesses as everyone else?

Jesus gave a completely different view of the Christian Temple. First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that Christians are God’s temple, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. In Acts 17:24-25, Paul told the pagans that God does NOT live in temples made with human hands and is not served by human hands. First Corinthians 6:15-20 tells Christians that their bodies are the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and that going to a prostitute is a logical impossibility.

Jesus made comparisons between the Jewish Temple and the Christian Temple. Just as the Jewish Temple had lights, so too should the Christian Temple. “You are the light of the world.” (See Matthew 5:14-16.) Galatians 5:22-26 speaks of what the Holy Spirit working in the Christian’s life will produce. Jewish worship involved giving the best they had. Mark 12:42 (the widow’s mite), and Luke 18:18-27 (the rich young ruler) make clear the Christian sacrifice and priorities.

The Jewish Temple was a place of learning and growth, and so too is the Christian temple. We need to learn and grow every day. This website and the “Does God Exist?” ministry are dedicated to helping people learn and grow. We learn new things every day, and we are always amazed to see how God uses our feeble efforts to help others grow.

You can receive God’s Spirit, making you a temple of God, by obeying Acts 2:38. That verse tells us that we will receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit” when we are baptized into Christ. God will never leave us, but we can force the Spirit out of our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The blessings of being the temple that Jesus promised far outweigh any physical reward. Human efforts to replace the true temple with a “temple made with human hands” cannot compare.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Fish That Can Live Out of Water

Mudskipper - Fish That Can Live Out of Water
Mudskipper
Bowfin - Fish That Can Live Out of Water
Bowfin

Evolutionists often try to use fish that can live out of water to support various theories of the origins of living things. One example is a family of fish known as mudskippers (Oxudercinae).

Mudskippers can live as long as 2 ½ days out of water. They live along the shorelines in tidal pools where there is very little oxygen. They burrow into the mud when the tide goes out and stay there until the next incoming tide. Mudskippers inflate their mouth and the cavity around their gills with air. When the fish emerges from the mud, it deflates and immediately takes another gulp of air. Their mud burrows contain enough oxygen for the fish and its eggs to survive. This is a case where the fish modifies its environment to survive in a place where life would otherwise be impossible.

In Michigan, we have a fish called the bowfin (Amia calva) or popularly called dogfish. This species of fish shows up in some of the earliest rocks of the Earth. They have obviously been around for a long time, so sometimes they are called “living fossils.” In addition to gills, they have gas bladders with a small pneumatic duct that allows them to gulp air and survive for some time out of water.

Do these fish that can live out of water show a transition between aquatic and land animals? The short answer is “no.” They do show that living things were designed to adapt to changing environments and even to modify their environments for survival. The more science researches living things, the more we realize that God has designed animals and plants to make every ecosystem alive with life. It is up to us to take care of the environment as we marvel at God’s creative power and wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

God’s Will and Our Free Will

God's Will and Our Free Will

One of the struggles that we all have with our relationship to God is understanding why negative things happen to us. Some say “this is God’s will” in response to COVID-19, but when your loved one dies from it, that isn’t much help. Some of us have been taught a determinist view of God. God’s decretive or determining will is seen as sovereign, universal, and all-inclusive. What can we understand about God’s will and our free will?

One writer has said, “God has a predetermined plan for every life. It is that which will happen. It is inevitable, unconditional, immutable, irresistible, comprehensive, and purposeful. It includes everything–even sin and suffering. So your career, marriage, friends, sicknesses, accidents, income, etc. are all part of God’s determined will but are not revealed to you ahead of time.”

Why does God allow someone to have one tragedy after another that they didn’t cause? Why should a young mother have a severe illness and die? Why do babies die? Anyone who says they have all the answers is a liar because none of us do, and being an atheist doesn’t help either. There are some scriptural clues in the use of four Greek words:

Prothesis” usually translated purpose. See Romans 8:28; 9:11; 2 Timothy 1:9.

Boule” which means counsel. See Acts 2:23; 4:28; Ephesians 1:11.

Eudokia” meaning desire, good pleasure. See Ephesians 1:5;9; Philippians 2:13.

Epitrepo” means to permit. See 1 Corinthians 16:7; Hebrews 6:3.

I hope you will take some time to read through those passages and think about how they are different, and how they may overlap. It seems that God’s will has three primary connotations: purpose, desire, and permission. Jack Cottrell has an excellent treatment of this in his book What the Bible Says About God the Ruler, College Press, ©1984, pp. 299-329.

Cottrell goes into this subject deeply, but here is a simplified explanation. The determinist view has one glaring weakness. It ignores the purpose for which God created humans. We are not robots programmed to a specific end. In revealing God’s will through His purpose, His desire, and His permission, the Bible shows us that we are precious to Him. He allows our free will to love, serve, and obey Him–or rejecting Him. God tells us what is best for us, and He makes it clear what His desire is for us. But He permits us to choose to reject Him and live in destructive ways.

Our free will is the key here, but we need to know we have a purpose in existence and that free will is a part of that purpose. God allows us to have problems and permits us to seek evil solutions to those problems. If our love for God and our desire to have a relationship with Him is strong enough, the problems will not destroy our relationship with Him. God promises us limits (see 1 Corinthians 10:13) and takes the problems and makes good come out of them (see Romans 8:28). These challenges can boost our relationship with God or destroy it. That is our choice.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

God’s Hygienic Food Laws, Wet Markets and COVID-19

Chinese Wet Market and God's Hygienic Food Laws
Chinese Wet Market

One of the enduring questions with the COVID-19 virus is its origin. We know that it came from the wet markets in Wuhan, China, but it is essential to look at what practices led to this pandemic. No one in the scientific community denies that epidemics and pandemics begin when a pathogen moves from one species to another. We need to consider how God’s hygienic food laws which He gave to the Israelites prevented epidemics and pandemics.

When you read the Old Testament, you see all kinds of restrictions on food. Those include not only what the Israelites could eat, but also how it was procured and prepared. From the earliest times, eating blood was forbidden (Genesis 9:4). Any preparation that allowed blood to remain in the meat was prohibited, so an animal that was strangled could not be eaten. Eating anything that had died on its own was forbidden (Exodus 22:31 and Leviticus 17:15). Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 give a long and tedious list of what could be eaten and what could not. There were even instructions on how to prepare the meat (Exodus 12:8-9).

The practice in the Old Testament was that eating meat of any kind (other than fish) was a rare situation and usually only for the wealthy. The main diet was grains and fruits. When humans began to build cities, this dietary practice changed, but the early Christians retained much of the Old Testament diet and restrictions. (See Acts 15:29; 21:25.)

As humans moved away from the biblical instructions of God’s hygienic food laws and the handling of animals, they instituted some very dubious practices. The July/August 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (pages 20-24) carries a discussion titled “Did Superstition Cause the COVID-19 Outbreak?” The article describes traditional Chinese beliefs about meat and other byproducts of wild animals.

In China, much of the food is distributed in wet markets. In these markets, fish and a variety of other animals such as bats are slaughtered and gutted on-site to guarantee freshness. In places like Wuhan, the ground is wet with melted ice and the blood of various species. The animals to be slaughtered are kept alive in closely packed open cages where the blood and feces intermingle.

When we read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we may feel burdened with what appears to be an endless list of restrictions and rules. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the wet markets’ environment is conducive to the spread of disease. Epidemics of the past can be related directly and indirectly to cultural practices that would not have happened in the Israelite culture in the day of Moses. We have new problems today because of the size of the human population and the closeness of animals of all kinds and humans. The COVID-19 tragedy is a reminder of the wisdom we see in God’s hygienic food laws in the Old Testament.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Fast Radio Bursts and the Cosmos

Fast Radio Bursts and the Cosmos - Bright, Spinning Neutron Star in the Center of a Supernova Remnant
Bright, Spinning Neutron Star in the Center of a Supernova Remnant

Those of us who are interested in the subject of creation have been excited about some new data which will help us understand the cosmos. Apparently God has built into the creation various devices to help us more clearly see what He has created. Among those devices are fast radio bursts (FRBs).

When high mass stars draw in matter, they emit various frequencies of radio waves. Neutron stars and black holes release radio waves in a wide range of different energies. High energy waves travel through space without being affected a great deal by anything. Lower energy radio waves are affected by whatever material they pass through. Recent research has shown that in interstellar space there are variations in the actual speed of radio waves coming from a common source, depending on how much intergalactic material the waves are going through.

The material that slows the radiation is the ordinary particles called baryons, including protons and neutrons. We now know that interstellar space is full of the matter that makes up our galaxy, but at a very low density. These microscopic baryons do not emit light so we have not been able to detect their presence in the past. Fast radio bursts can make it possible for us to observe them because of the effect they have on the speed of the radiation.

Astronomers know from observing the light that was emitted when the universe was young that baryons should be the source of five percent of all the mass and energy in the cosmos. If that was true at the beginning, it should also be true today. However, the stars and gas we can see only account for half of that amount. The baryons are not uniform or isotropic in their distribution, but rather exist as filaments making a sort of web of low density matter which can be measured using FRBs. Astronomers are optimistic that this discovery will account for the “missing mass” in the creation. (This is the missing mass of regular matter, not dark matter, which is still a mystery.)

When the Bible challenges us to “know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20), it implies that this process is ongoing. In the 21st century we are blessed with new and better tools to see what God has made. Like the microscope, fast radio bursts open whole new vistas for us so that we can see and understand more of the handiwork of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News , June 20, 2020, page 6, and Nature.com

Literalism and a Literal Understanding of the Bible

Literalism and a Literal Understanding of the Bible

There is a common mistake made by atheists and by many preachers who say they take the Bible literally. The problem involves knowing the difference between literalism and a literal understanding of the Bible. Literalism is interpreting a passage while ignoring who wrote it, why they wrote it, what kind of literature or teaching technique it is, and to whom it was written.

When atheists try to say that a biblical passage cannot be true, they are almost always using literalism. An example is skeptics who claim that the Bible says the Earth is flat and has corners like a sheet of paper. They use Revelation 7:1 to support this, “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth…” If you don’t read the passage’s context, you might conclude that it says the Earth is flat and has corners. There is a “Flat Earth Society” that believes that today, but that is not what the Bible is saying. In the past, literalist church leaders insisted that the Bible says the Sun orbits the Earth instead of the other way around. They based that on passages that talk about the motion of the Sun (such as Joshua 19) or a passage they believed said that the Earth cannot be moved (Psalms 93:1 KJV).

A more complex example is seen in Luke 16:19-31. It’s the familiar story of Lazarus, the rich man, and Abraham. Atheists have used this account to ridicule the concept of heaven and hell and preachers have used it to justify fire and damnation sermons. Is this passage a literal description of the judgment scene? This is an excellent example of the principles of literalism and a literal understanding of the Bible.

This passage is one of a series of parables. It begins as the other parables with, “There was a …” Abraham is the only proper name used in the passage. “A certain rich man…” is never identified. The word translated “Lazarus” means “without help” in the original language. It is a description of the beggar, not his formal name. Abraham is never given the role of a judge in the scripture. He is the father of Israel, but he certainly is not God. Jesus told the story to “the Pharisees who were covetous” (verse 14) and considered themselves sons of Abraham. Jesus did not address the parable to theologians wanting to know the nature of hell. The picture of people in hell seeing people in heaven may be useful for artists, but it violates all descriptions of heaven and hell. The parable’s message is condemning the hypocrisy of people who claimed a relationship with God but did nothing to help others.

We must apply these principles to any passage we read. Were the nephilim of Genesis 6 literal giants? No, we have discussed that before. Did the animal in Job 41:14 have doors on its face? Does light shine when it sneezes (verse 18)? Do sparks, smoke, and flame come out of its mouth (verse 19, 20)? Is its heart as hard as a millstone (verse 24)?

There are many other passages where people confuse literalism and a literal understanding of the Bible. The entire book of Revelation is misrepresented by folks who use literalism instead of taking it literally. As we have said before, taking a Bible passage literally means looking at who wrote it, to whom and why, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. The Bible is easy to understand, and its message is 100% true, but, like any written message, it can be distorted and misrepresented. Sometimes skeptics do that purposely. Many times believers do it innocently because they don’t read it carefully and apply common sense to understand it literally.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

What Is Falsification and How Does it Relate to Faith?

What Is Falsification and How Does it Relate to Faith?

We see misunderstandings of the question of falsification by both atheists and religionists. What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God?

Let us begin this discussion by giving a simple definition of falsification. The Falsification Principle, initially proposed by Karl Popper, is a way of demarcating science from non-science. It suggests that for a theory to be considered scientific, it must be testable and falsifiable. For example, the hypothesis that “all swans are white,” can be falsified by observing a black swan.

It always disturbs me to read a religious writing that claims scientific proof that a faith healer accomplished a miracle cure. An excellent example of this was William Nolen’s studies reported in a book titled In Search of A Miracle released in 1975. Nolen investigated the claims of faith healers Kathryn Kulman and Norbu Chen. He showed that there were observable, natural explanations for what had been called “miracles.” Nolen believed he could test Kulman and Chen’s claims by investigating whether there were other explanations for their claimed miracles. There were, so they could not be scientifically proven to be true. What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God? You can have faith in someone, but you cannot call it science.

The scientific community is guilty of the same kind of error when it promotes an idea that cannot be tested and calls it science. It is fashionable in today’s world for scientists to propose the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes. They use this idea to explain how our universe could be fine-tuned for life. With a nearly infinite number of universes, we just happen to be in the one with all of the right stuff for life. Multiverse proposals say that quantum pops create universes and that an infinite number of pops would eventually produce every possible set of properties, including ours.

That is an interesting fantasy, but it is just that. There is no way to falsify that proposal, and so it is not scientific. Skeptics will be quick to point out that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is also not falsifiable, and that is true. But look at the logical outcome of these two choices. If God created the universe and placed humans in it, then there is a reason there is something instead of nothing, and there is a purpose for our existence. If the faith statement of the multiverse is true, the question of why we exist remains unanswered, and any purpose for the “pops” is pure fantasy.

Romans 1:20 tells us we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The Bible, as a whole, brings us understanding that we are part of a struggle between good and evil and that God is love and wants to have a relationship with us. We can’t offer scientific proof of that, so it is a statement of faith. But it is far more full of meaning and purpose than to speak of what we see in the cosmos as “quantum pops” of something without a cause or purpose. So the question we all have to entertain is, “What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God?” The proposed multiverse alternative to God is not falsifiable, and therefore it is faith and not science. In what do you place your faith?

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Abortion in the United States

Abortion in the United States

On Monday, June 29, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges in a hospital nearby in case of complications. The Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016. Abortion in the United States continues to be a hot topic. In 2019, legislatures in 12 states passed 25 laws restricting abortions. It seems inevitable that people who profit from abortions will challenge all of those laws, and more cases will make it to the Supreme Court.

The 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States is known as Roe v. Wade. The plaintiff in the case was given the pseudonym Jane Roe to protect her identity. Her real name was Norma McCorvey. She was a poor young woman with a very troubled life who was trying to obtain a legal abortion by falsely claiming that a group of black men raped her. When that failed, she tried to get an illegal abortion. Some abortion activist attorneys who were not interested in helping her used her as a case to challenge laws against abortion. It took three years for the case to reach the Supreme Court. In the meantime, McCorvey had her baby and put it up for adoption.

In 1994, McCorvey put her name on an autobiography titled I Am Roe. Under the influence of an evangelical minister who founded Operation Rescue, she became a Christian and was baptized. She quit her job at an abortion clinic and went to work for Operation Rescue to campaign against abortion. She said she was sorry for her part in making abortion legal. She published a second book in 1998 titled Won By Love telling about her conversion. In 2004 she petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the Court dismissed the case in 2005.

McCorvey died from heart failure in 2017, but shortly before her death, she recorded a “deathbed confession.” In it, she said that her activism against abortion was “all an act” and that she was paid to do it. She said she didn’t care whether women got abortions. On May 22, 2020, a television documentary called AKA Jane Roe was released on FX. It included her “confession,” in which she said, “I took their money, and they put me in front of the cameras.” However, a friend who knew her well said that McCorvey felt guilty for the abortions and was trying to justify herself in her own mind by saying that abortions are okay. Only God knows the true feelings and motivations of Norma McCorvey. All we know is that she lived a very troubled life for 69 years.

The latest five-to-four decision by the Supreme Court was based on “legal precedent.” It indicates that any hope of reversing Roe v. Wade or finding any real solution to the abortion dilemma will be difficult with the present Supreme Court. We have pointed out before that you cannot explain a baby as “an extension of the mother’s body.” Apparently, abortion in the United States will continue as our culture is accepting infanticide as a method of birth control. State-by-state the rights of babies before birth are being eliminated.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2020

Is God’s Design of Our Bodies Faulty?

Is God's Design of Our Bodies Faulty?

One question repeatedly arises from skeptics, atheists, and people struggling with health issues. They want to know why we have all of the diseases, syndromes, and disabilities that afflict people. Is God’s design of our bodies faulty? Is the bad stuff that comes into our lives punishment for some transgression of God’s laws?

It seems that we have more things that can go wrong with us today than ever before, and a large percentage of our modern afflictions are genetic or congenital. It isn’t just that we have more names for current problems, but the problems themselves seem to be more abundant.

The Bible tells us that God is never the author of our problems. James 1:13 makes it clear that God never brings bad things upon us. The passage goes on to say, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights in whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.”

A part of the answer to the source of these afflictions is our development of plastics. In 1922, the first synthetic plastic was sold by the Bakelite Corporation. In 2018, 400 million tons of new plastics were created. We all cringe when we see pictures of whales or sea turtles or albatrosses dying because of ingesting plastic, but we don’t realize that we too are consuming plastic. The average American consumes more than 74,000 microplastic particles every year. These particles contain bisphenol A and phthalates, which in turn attract polychlorinated biphenyls. These chemicals have been shown to affect brain and organ development in children, and they are linked to infertility, hormonal problems, and cardiovascular problems in adults.

There are efforts to control plastics production, and science is researching ways to remove dangerous chemicals from the plastics we use. Our point is that this is another case where blaming God for a problem that humans have created is not logical or reasonable. Is God’s design of our bodies faulty? As David wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). Much of what goes wrong with our bodies is due to our ignorant use of things that damage them.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Consumer Reports, June 2020.

Why Call Him “Jesus the Nazarene?”

Nazareth, Israel. Why Call Him Jesus the Nazarene?
Modern city of Nazareth, Israel

One of the interesting facts about Jesus Christ is that the name of the town where He grew up is frequently used with his name. When Pilate ordered a sign to be placed on the cross, it said, “Jesus of Nazareth” (John 19:19). When Christ appeared to Saul (Acts 22:8), he said, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” Peter and Paul referred to Jesus as “the Nazarene” in Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 10:38, and 26:9. Why call Him “Jesus the Nazarene?”

There is a reason why the village of Nazareth was always kept in the dossier of Jesus Christ. The reason is still valid today. Christ never attempted to use worldly standards to emphasize His message. When He had the opportunity to gather a following, He sent the crowds away. When people wanted to elevate Him to a ruling position, He rejected those attempts. Remember that when Peter drew his sword to stop the arrest of Christ, Jesus told him to put it away and healed the man Peter had injured. (See Matthew 26:47-52.) Unlike all other religious figures and organizations, Jesus emitted a gentle image and focused people on His message, not His appearance or power.

Nazareth was an obscure little village in Galilee, and not highly regarded. In John 1:46, when Nathanael was introduced to Christ (John 1:46), he said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Even the relationship between Christ and the village of Nazareth was not that good. In Luke 4:16-30, when Jesus returned to his home town, the citizens rejected him and tried to throw him off a cliff.

Matthew wrote about Jesus, “Then he went and settled in a town called Nazareth to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets that he would be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23). Although no Old Testament prophecy uses the title “Nazarene,” many passages predict that Jesus would be “despised and rejected.” (See Isaiah 53:3; Psalms 22:6; Daniel 9:26; and Zechariah 12:10.) Nazareth was a despised place (as we see from Nathanael’s comment), and even the citizens that despised place rejected Jesus.

Our world of religious violence, hatred, and power is the complete opposite of that for which Jesus Christ stood. Why call Him “Jesus the Nazarene?” Using that title reminds us of what Christianity is not, and what it is. Christianity, like Christ, is not about worldly power or prestige. It is about love and compassion.

— John N. Clayton © 2020